Private zoos and keeping wild animals as pets are practices that are very common in the country. Just because the privileged few can buy exotic animals does not mean they are equipped to look after the welfare of these animals. Nor does the power to purchase these animals reflect their motivation to adequately care for them, most of which belong to species under threat. There is an ongoing debate on the idea of zoos, if they are pitiful prisons or preservation sites. The arguments in favour of the former are more convincing. And it must also be stated that the conditions of zoos in Pakistan in particular do not seem centred on protecting animals; they are often treated as lifeless items on display. Before the video of a bear, showing neurotic behaviour, surfaced, another clip of a thirsty lion that was licking the cage in a zoo in Rawalpindi also went viral on social media. Our social media platforms are replete with videos and pictures of the affluent showing off their wealth by parading a lion or tiger from their private collections as well.

This must stop. The twenty-second clip of the bear was evidence of sheer negligence towards the animal. It is not rocket science to understand that keeping animals in cages is cruel. Animals caged in zoos receive inadequate nutrition and medical care. And the sterile cells or cages make them suffer the debilitating effects of solitary confinement that goes against the natural habitat they come from. A blanket ban on exotic pets, such as big cats, bears, to name a few, needs to be implemented.

It is time for the government to start thinking about tightening the procedure and regulations regarding the procurement of exotic animals. Notably, the authorities need to ensure that zoos, both public and private, are inspected regularly. Those who maintain zoos argue that the educational opportunities outweigh the criticisms against zoos. However, the negligence of zookeepers and their staff, even those of the public zoos, regarding the care of these captive animals, is common knowledge. Any zoo found to violate basic animal rights must be closed down immediately, the animals confiscated, and homes in other sanctuaries should be found as soon as possible.